Oh, and some good news: What you’ve been doing to date enables you to get a running start.
Before you jump down my figurative throat about buzzwords and hyperbole, let me make my case. The last 20 years have seen massive digital evolution in business, which simply positioned us as ready for where we are right now.
If you unpack digital transformation, it boiled down to customer engagement and data management, with companies investing a lot of time and money to create efficiency and increase revenue, monetization and margins through the use of digital.
Now those steps have led us to the stage where AI can be used to automate many of the underlying elements of business and have them guided by self-optimizing platforms that make decisions and engage in a way that creates further efficiencies.
None of what will come next is possible without having gone through the previous stages, but none of it will compare with where we are headed.
AI can be used in many ways. The two most important are to create efficiency by augmenting your employees or to replace mundane, ordinary processes with machines which free up people for other, more important efforts.
In the dystopian future people would have you believe machines will replace everyone and there will be no jobs left. In the more realistic version of the foreseeable future, AI can free up a person’s day to do more high-impact work.
In fact, people can work more hours than ever before, and AI can actually create jobs. Someone has to manage the machines. Someone has to manage the output. Someone has to ensure the quality of the decisions being made.
AI can be used to do everything from optimize media campaigns to direct customer service conversations or reroute deliveries based on availability for receipt.
As companies have spent time over the last few years understanding how to be “data-driven” or “digital first,” they are now being tasked to think about being “AI-driven” and “voice first.” This is the new paradigm.
Don’t worry yet if you haven’t started down this path. Most companies are just dipping their toes in the water. AI transformation requires a few things.
First off, you need to understand who in the organization should take the lead. In most cases, this will be IT. That being said, AI transformation can be sponsored by the groups in your organization who want to create the efficiencies. This can be in marketing, HR, sales, finance or back in IT. It can start anywhere, but it requires immediate partnership with IT to be successful.
Second, you need to find someone in the organization who is excited about the process. This is not going to be a two-year investment, but will dominate the next 10 years for your organization. It should start with the team responsible for your data management in IT, and then spread to the groups where the most immediate impact can be felt.
Third, do your research and start engaging now with external folks who can help you best understand what areas of your business can be most impacted by AI. Let them guide you, or at least provide a playbook that provides more insight into where you can start and what you can do first.
AI transformation can sound like a daunting task, but I believe strongly that the outcome will be worth it.